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MOOC-Based iMBA to Replace On-Campus MBA

Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will be ending on-campus MBA programs in favor of the MOOC-based iMBA.

On Friday, the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign announced that it will be ending its on-campus MBA programs in favor of its MOOC-based iMBA and other similar degree programs.

The iMBA, which the University of Illinois delivers in partnership with Coursera, was announced in 2015 and began accepting students in 2016. Since then, the program has enjoyed growing popularity, with applications up from 1,100 to a projected 3,200 this year.

Class Central has been watching the iMBA with interest since it was announced. Last year, we spoke with the first cohort of graduates and with Jeffrey Brown, Dean of Gies College of Business.

At less than $22,000 the iMBA costs much less than comparable on-campus programs, which, as the University of Illinois noted in its announcement, can cost $80,000 or more. Students who choose the iMBA earn the same degree as those in the residential program, with no indication that the degree was earned online.

With this move, the University of Illinois is capitalizing on a trend in which students are skipping the full-scale, two-year residential MBA and opting for shorter, more flexible executive or online programs. As Jeffrey Brown explained, “Market demand for traditional formats is declining nationwide. Meanwhile, demand, as well as the needs of businesses and individuals, is growing in these other areas. We believe in innovating and staying ahead of trends in business education and on top of the needs of business and society.”

In addition to the iMBA, Gies College of Business currently offers a MOOC-based master’s degree in accounting, the iMSA. With the end of its residential programs, the college plans to expand its online catalog and may add degrees in fields such as finance and technology management.

Current and incoming students will be able to complete their studies in the on-campus programs. Incoming students will also be offered the option of enrolling in the iMBA instead.

Laurie Pickard Profile Image

Laurie Pickard

I got into MOOCs when I started a project to replicate a traditional MBA using free online courses. My blog at NoPayMBA.com resulted in a book called Don't Pay For Your MBA.

Comments 2

  1. Kenan

    When there are concurrent classes (online and on-campus), the promise of “the degree looks the same, no mention about it being online” is tempting. If the degree became only available online, then it loses some of its appeal (and might disappoint students already enrolled into the program)

  2. Christopher Hawley

    Very true.

    People will soon know that Illinois only offers online courses, and the world of managerial dinosaurs and micro-managers won’t appreciate the intelligence of the student with an online qualification.

    Unless they can get all the top 100 companies on board, online education will be considered inferior because people can’ t have parties and endless, naîve, pointless discussions on global politics.


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